Airlines must find volunteers to deal with overbooked flights – or up the ante on compensation
Airlines won’t be allowed to bump passengers from a flight against their will under a new passenger bill of rights introduced by Transportation Minister Marc Garneau.
That change is part of a package of amendments to the Canada Transportation Act which also introduces new foreign ownership limits for airlines, requires railways to install voice and video recorders in locomotives and improves transparency and efficiency in the freight rail industry.
Garneau promised the bill of rights last month in the wake of widespread alarm after a United Airlines passenger was seriously injured when he was dragged from a plane in Chicago.
The minister earlier wrote to all airlines operating in Canada to say such an incident is not to happen here, but he says the new legislation spells it out clearly: people who are legitimate passengers can’t be denied boarding or removed from the plane against their will.
“We have all heard recent news reports of shoddy treatment of air passengers,” Garneau said at a news conference. “Such incidents will not be tolerated in Canada. When Canadians buy an airline ticket, they expect the airline to keep its part of the deal.”
He said there will be minimum levels of compensation for people who voluntarily agree to be bumped from a flight and if airlines can’t get a volunteer, they will have to decide if they want to up the ante to persuade someone to get off.
There will also have to be compensation for lost or damaged bags. Airlines will have to spell out what they will do for passengers who are delayed due to situations within an airline’s control, as well as how they will ensure passengers complete their travel if they are delayed due to weather.
The bill also will prevent airlines from charging parents to sit next to their children if the kids are under the age of 14, and will have to create new standards for transporting musical instruments.
The specifics of what will be compensated and with how much won’t be determined until regulations are introduced after the legislation is passed. Those will be worked out by the Canadian Transportation Agency.
Garneau said he is considering what further penalties would apply if airlines do not live up to the new requirements, but there are none contained in the legislation.
He wants the new legislation in place in 2018.
There are already some requirements in place for airlines to compensate passengers who are bumped or whose luggage gets lost but each airline can set its own rules and compensation packages.
“There are rules at the moment but they’re rather opaque to the average flyer,” said Garneau.